From the President
8th SPELTA Conference (May 1998) Programme
Abstracts of the Conference Presentations
Michael Swan and Catherine Walter Interview
Tonya Trappe Interview
May is a month of holidays, occupational days, memorial days and simply spring days and the new SPELTA Executive Council are happy to greet you on this spring day both in print and in person. We have been active for four months by now and we are proud to have survived so long because we are all new in the office and we have less experience than may be necessary for this serious function. Anyway, we do our best and we are earnest in our efforts.
The fact that SPELTA continues its professional performance despite the almost complete change in the Council membership is a good sign of stability. Whichever direction we turn, whatever steps we make, we can see how much was done before us, by the former Executive Council members, SIG co-ordinators and, above all by the past president, Irina Pavlovskaya and how much the present functioning of the Association is based on the four preceding years of its activity. This is the new Council's first public occasion to thank all the people who have given their time, energy, skill and intellectual potential to the cause of SPELTA. For all of us, members of this organisation, it is voluntary, extra-curriculum and totally non-profit work that takes us away from our families, private engagements, entertainment, etc. Let us hope that professional compensation is adequate to the time and effort spent and that it is not always only hard work but also fun. Have a good time!
May 5, 1998
The conference is supported by
The American Center of US Information Service
St. Petersburg State University
St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation
St. Petersburg Branch of the English-Speaking Union
The Benedict School, St. Petersburg
15 May 1998 Venue: Shuvalov Palace, 21 Fontanka Emb.
14:00 Registration, Book Exhibition, American Studies Materials
14:45 Opening of the Conference
Elvira Myachinskaya, President, SPELTA.
Janet Demiray, Consul for Press and Culture, Director of the American Center, US Information Service.
Elizabeth White, Director, the British Council.
Natalia Yeliseeva, President, St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation.
Margarita Mudrak, Steering Committee Chairman, the English-Speaking Union.
Tatyana Kuzmina, Executive Director, Society for Cultural and Business Contacts with the USA and Canada.
Olga Brodovich, Regional Coordinator of the European Linguistic Portfolio Project, the Council of Europe
15:15 Keynote Lecture
Prof. Philip Hosay, New York University, Understanding America: The Reconciliation of Diversity with National Unity
16:45 Plenary Paper
Thomas Kral, English Language Programs Officer at USIS, Moscow, Using American Cultural Content in English Language Classes
16 May 1998 Venue: the Benedict School, 4 Admiralteyskaya Emb., top floor
10:00 Registration, Book exhibitions and sale, American Studies materials sale.
10:30 Plenary Talks
David McFadden, Fairfield University and Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Hertsen University
Integrating American Studies into English Language Curriculum at the University Level
Prof. Philip Hosay, New York University. America: A Model for the World?
12:30 - Raffle
13:00 - Coffee Break, Exhibitions, Book Sale
14:00 - Section Meetings
I. Issues of American Culture. Chair: Dr. Natalia Yulikova.
Betsy Lewis, USIS English Teaching Fellow, Moscow, Project Work: Opening Up America Region by Region.
Elena Petrova, Ebonics in the Context of American Culture
Lyudmila Devel, St. Petersburg Business English Language Center, The Plain English Campaign in the United States
Irina Abramova, Secondary School No. 169, Early American Schooling
Olga Vessart and Nina Popova, University of Economics and Finance, Life and Issues in the United States: An Approach to Country Studies
II. American Studies in the Curriculum and in the Classroom.
Chair: Prof. David McFadden.
Ann McAllen, USIS English Language Fellow, Introducing American Culture into the Classroom
Tatyana Kuzmina, Society for Cultural and Business Contacts with the USA and Canada, Popular American Studies for the Mixed English-Speaking Audience.
Elvira Osipova, St. Petersburg University, A New Approach to Teaching American Studies at the University
Yelena Bocharova, Secondary School No. 153, Teaching American Culture with Jazz Chants
Vera Nesterova, Russian Academy of Sciences, Petrozavodsk, TESOL Follow-Up: Bringing the Latest Methods to the Classroom
III. American Literature as Part of American Studies.
Chairs: Dr. Elena Apenko & Dr. Ingrid Bengis.
Thomas Kral, USIS, Moscow, American Literature: American Literature, Self-Awareness and Kaleidoscopic Consciousness
Olga Bobok, Tula University, New Aspects in the Teaching of Nineteenth-Century American Literature at University Level
Ingrid Bengis, Fulbright Scholar, St. Petersburg State University, American Literature as a Window on American Society (Round Table)
Danny Teal, Ph. D., Identify and Self-Identity: Three Current Bestsellers
IV. Demonstrations. Chair: Galina Avdiyeva.
George Thompson, Teaching American Studies Through Music
Michael Ferraro, American Drama in Teaching English
* * *
POST-CONFERENCE EVENTS, 18 MAY 1998
American Studies Collection, Department of English Studies, St.
Petersburg State University (11 Universitetskaya Emb.)
Chair: Prof. Alexander Zelenschikov
Prof. Philip Hosay will lead two workshops on American Studies
Syllabus Design and Development:
14:00 - for Secondary School level
16:00 - for University level
Early American Schooling
The talk will describe early American education and its impact upon shaping the new nation's mentality, values and priorities.
17-18 cc. schools and teachers and their role in the public and
social life of American colonies:
* New England colonies - legal and public support of schools, first American colleges
* family and schooling
*American almanacs and broadsides as tools of popular education and upbringing
*centers and features of early American schooling
In contemporary America - the public debate over education ( what are the GOALS of education?) - hence the growing interest to the research in the area of schooling as related to social changes: the changing society wants new education or the new education brings about social changes? The idea of the autonomy of the individual and the search for "natural human rights" led to the collective awakening of the individuals as citizens and to cooperate vigilance against government's overstepping of its strictly circumscribed legitimate bounds.
Irina Abramova, a member of SPELTA Council, graduated from St. Petersburg University. Now she is a teacher of the Highest Category, awarded for Teaching Excellence. She is also a Fellow of Massachusetts Historical Society (M.H.S.) (founded in 1791) and as such took part in the annual seminars for American historians organized by the society and spent five weeks in Boston, MA, studying the archives. Her research proposal was approved and awarded by M.H.S
American Literature as a Window on American Society
Literature is an alternative to learning "about" America. Instead, the reader can experience America from a variety of perspectives. It is one thing to know how Congress works in theory. It is quite another to read All the King's Men. The stock market or the predicament of women in the early years of the century? Try Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. Puritanism: Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Ordinary American life: James Agee's A Death in the Family. Hollywood: The Day of the Locust. These works deepen students' understanding not only of America but of the human condition. We will discuss specific works of literature as well as approaches to teaching literature as a window on America.
New Aspects in the Teaching of Nineteenth-Century American Literature at University Level
The purpose of this investigation is to provide certain materials that might prove useful, both in content and form, for the student's fuller comprehension of literature created by the leading American nineteenth-century authors.
The curriculum-imposed limitation on the time allotted for this lecture course makes it indispensable to provide sufficiently extensive information for the student's reference. The students should be given a chance to exercise a selective attitude and at the same time be encouraged to carry out analytical surveying based on the problem-solving approach to literary texts.
The study primarily concerns Mark Twain's art. His diverse works can be easily placed within the intellectual and historical context of American literature in the period under consideration. Mark Twain is a fascinating subject for such studies because he confronted the philosophical issues of freedom and restraint, of optimistic and pessimistic approaches to man, humanity, historical progress and life as a whole.
Teaching American Culture with Jazz Chants
Jazz chants series by Caroline Graham can be a perfect tool for American studies appealing to students of all ages. Although the primary purpose of Jazz chanting is to develop speaking and listening comprehension skills, all the chants obviously have some cultural value too. In this talk the presenter will try to show how American culture and life can be taught through the language of Jazz Chants. For example, the chant "Give me a C" is presented in the style of an American football cheer and the chorus of the song called "The horse march" is based on "The stars and stripes forever" written by John Philip Sousa in 1897.
Yelena Bocharova received a Bachelor's Degree at Herzen Pedagogical University . In 1996 she had been studying in the University of Northern Iova for 8 months, majoring education. She is presently teaching at secondary school No. 153 and working on her graduation degree at Herzen University.
Plain English Campaigns in the USA
Plain English is an idea that is currently discussed a great deal. It would be quite important for the Russian teachers of English it and Russian translators and interpreters to be aware of it.
Here are just the first things about it. The Plain English movement in the USA attacks the use of unnecessarily complicated language by governments, businesses and professionals. The campaigners argue that this sort of language, whether spoken or written, should be replaced by clearer forms of expression.
In these cost-conscious days, it is stressed, that clear language not only prevents an anxiety on the part of the recipient, but also saves time and money. One thing is true: scientists, doctors, bankers and others need their jargon in order to communicate with one another succinctly and unambiguously. But when it comes to addressing the non-specialist consumer, the plain English campaigners argue, different criteria must apply.
Understanding America: The Reconciliation of Diversity with National Unity
The tension between forces for unification and diversification in the United States is used as a basis for an interdisciplinary approach to understanding American society and culture. In constantly striving to reconcile these opposing forces, the United States has developed a sense of national identity and an institutional framework that accommodate Americans of diverse cultures. At a time when, in many parts of the world, American culture has become a ubiquitous part of mass culture, it may be of interest to examine how, in responding to diversity and unity, the United States has forged a relatively flexible and inclusive national culture. How the United States has managed to maintain a balance between these two traditions, to reconcile diversity with national unity, is one of the most fruitful areas of current writing and research in the field of American studies. Caught up in the recent public controversies over multi-culturalism, this theme has become central to the debate over the shape and design of American studies curricula in colleges and universities. Some academics, like David Hollinger and John Higham, have called for an examination of the intellectual and cultural sources of social cohesion in American society, and research based on a "pluralistic integration" model of American development. Others, like Roland Berthoff, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Diane Ravitch, have insisted on the restoration of the balance between unum and pluribus in the story of the American people. At the heart of this debate is a discussion of how well we have succeeded in managing our social and cultural heterogeneity within a matrix of national unity.
Philip M. Hosay, Ph.D. in Social and Urban History, Professor of International and Social Studies Education at New York University. At present he is also Director of Multinational Institute of American Studies, Director of International and Social Studies Education, member of the Humanities Council. For many years he has been Consultant on American Studies for various countries. In 1997 he got Fulbright Award of Honor. He is an author of several books and numerous papers on American life and history. Currently he is working on a book on the history of government sponsored educational and cultural exchange activities in the United States.
Using American Cultural Content in Russian English-Language Classes
Except for a period of time in the 1950's and 60's when foreign language teaching in the States was characterized by the structuralist - behaviorist approach which separated meaning and cognition, language teachers have attempted to include meaningful content to lessons. Two reasons can be identified for basing language lessons on content and language structure. Sometimes the learning of content is more important learning the language itself - this may be the case in Business English courses and other "specific language" programs. Another reason has to do with motivation and communication -- finding something that will engage students' interest and make interaction in the foreign language more purposful.
American business materials area is especially relevant to language teachers affiliated to business and management programs at Russian institutions. But authentic business materials have to be adapted in format and occasionally in language itself to address both the specific and linguistic needs of the students. Authentic American business materials may also require "special handling", framing within a format of problem-solving and cooperative learning classroom activities.
If one looks solely at instrumental motivation for learning a foreign language, it is difficult to justify the relevance of American cultural or historic content for students in Russia or elsewhere; but even if English is thought to be only a tool for accomplishing the learners' goals and objectives, the cultural and historical significance of terms and phrases is essential if a student wishes to become communicatively competent in American English. A book of biographies of America's outstanding personalities is of relevance to Russian students, first because it provides insight into American mind, it shows whom Americans value and why. And secondly because so many of the people held in esteem by Americans may embody universal ideals; and their lives may have distinct affinity to the heroes and heroines of Russian history. In using American History materials, teachers can go beyond the history itself and engage in problem-solving/consensus-building activities in which students react to the reasons underlying certain decisions or events; they base their reactions upon how they, as Russians, view the situation.
But exposure to reading, audio-clips and movies or video which relate to America is not in itself sufficient to give Russians the cultural information they must have. Teachers must act as cultural informants in helping students go beyond the denotative aspects of language, they need cultural materials which highlight and explain items of social and cultural significance. Simple phrases that are superficially easy to comprehend may be socially and politically charged and teachers of American English must be able to explain the ethnic and cultural nuances of the language to their students.
Literature, Self-Awareness and Kaleidoscopic-Consciousness
If American Literature is taught at all in English programs in Russian high schools and institutions of higher education, it is usually as an adjunct to the grammar and reading components of the curriculum. In this respect, literature serves as a model of structure and rhetorically a vehicle for vocabulary development and reading comprehension skills. The potential of American literature to touch the students emotionally, stimulate their imagination and confidence in their own abilities to meaningfully react to text is frequently left out, which is unfortunate because learning a foreign language and reading literature share similar traits sensitizing students to the nuances of language and broadening their world view to avoid stereotyping and prejudicial thinking.
One reason why American literature does not play a more central role in English programs in Russian schools may be because teachers themselves don't have that literary background and they may lack classroom techniques to motivate students to respond to the social elements of literature - form and substance interrelated. Some programs may contain writings by American authors, but many of these texts are dated and not relevant to students.
In choosing readings for an American literature course, Russian teachers may wish to include contemporary short stories and poems that illustrate the ethnic and cultural diversity as well as writings which portray the human predicament or address feelings that we are all subject to: being lonely, lost or threatened. Not only does such literature relate to the reader, but by presenting perspective, enables students to expand their consciousness of the world. In doing so, readers deepen their sense of awareness of themselves and their consciousness becoming kaleido-scopic.
Thomas J. Kral is Attache for English Language Programs at American Embassy in Moscow. For several years he has been very active in the field of ELT and has contributed a lot to the promotion of American culture and language in this country.
Project Work: Opening Up America Region By Region
This presentation will discuss how to introduce students to America by setting up small group project work focusing on specific regions of the US The presenter will outline the project design and discuss materials needed. She will show teachers how to form student groups which will focus on one region of America, looking at each of these aspects: states, major cities, geographical features, main resources and industries, historical background, major ethnic groups, typical foods, and famous literary figures. Various activities stressing multiple skill areas will be covered.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Anne Lewis is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Woman's College, Virginia, where she studied liberal arts and majored in American and British Literature. She took a graduate course in Applied Linguistics at the University of Southern California. She is a Master of Arts and Teaching Credential holder. Betsy Lewis has taught ESL at a number of colleges and universities in the US and EFL in Austria, Russia and Ukraine. She is presently working with the United States Information Service as their Teacher Training Fellow in Moscow, conducting workshops for teachers in Moscow and Moscow Region, and in other cities in Russia
Introducing American Culture into the classroom
This presentation will begin by looking at Gary Weaver's "iceberg" model of culture. Weaver's model states that culture is like an iceberg because the smaller part of culture is what is most visible (food, clothing, appearance of country, etc.), and that "below the surface" lies the greater part of culture (body language, ethical issues, etc.). In this workshop we will explore some activities to use in the EFL class from both the visible and less visible parts of the "cultural iceberg". From the visible "top" of the iceberg we will work with activities dealing with appearance (maps), food (recipes), and cultural symbols (vocabulary sorts). From the more subtle "bottom" of the iceberg we will talk about the possibilities for incorporating lessons that talk about body language (gestures) and cultural comparisons into your classroom.
Ann McAllen has a MA in Education/concentration in TESL from Seattle University and has taught ESL/EFL in various Asian and European countries, as well as in the USA. Currently she is a USIS English Teaching Fellow working in St. Petersburg.
Integrating American Studies into the Teaching of English at the University Level
The interest among St. Petersburg students of English in American country studies and "American English" is growing in the last few years. From a base of knowledge in American Studies and American history as taught in a US program of teacher education at Fairfield University, I will discuss my experiences teaching at Herzen University in the Department of English - both a special course in American History for first year students of English, as well as team teaching a class in translation and interpreting for 5th year students. I have also made numerous guest appearances in 2nd and 3rd year classes of conversation.
From this experience several conclusions can be drawn concerning
the different levels in which American Studies can be integrated into the
teaching of English language in Russia:
(1) Imparting of knowledge via lectures, videos, films, books, and printed materials
concerning US geography, culture, basic history, literature and life. This is often referred to as "American country studies."
(2) Integrating American themes into English language classes of all types where interaction with language and debate about America takes place in the context of English through vocabulary building, conversation, writing, and translation.
(3) In-depth study of materials and themes of history and culture through research, reading longer works in the original, immersion in music, art, philosophy, and personal discussions with Americans about their lives. This level builds understanding and empathy with the culture and at the same time enriches language.
David McFadden is an Associate Professor of History at the College of Arts and Sciences and the Russian and East European Studies Director of the Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut USA. Currently he is a Visiting Fulbright Scholar in American History and American Studies, English Department, Herzen University.
A New Approach to Teaching American Studies
The paper considers the desirability of a new approach to teaching American Studies in universities. The traditional topical teaching of the subject in survey courses, though valuable, lacks comprehensiveness in the presentation of various facets of American life and overlooks the evolution of American political and social institutions. Teaching the subject on a cross-cultural basis will require to take a temporal rather than topical approach (that is, dividing the history of the country into - roughly - five periods, each half a century long). In this way we could better describe the political, social, demographic and literary situation as an integral complex whole, would be able to stress the changes and point out the traditional in the American cultural and political life.
Elvira Osipova is a Doctor of Philology who was a school teacher for 14 years and has been an Associate professor of Saint-Petersburg University for 10 years. She has written books on Ralf Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau and numerous articles on American Literature and Philosophy. She has been a visiting lecturer in three universities in Europe and a regular contributor to International conferences all over the world.
Ebonics in the Context of American Culture
The paper deals with varying social attitudes toward Black English at national and local levels as well as with the interaction between Black English and Received American English. These problems should be of interest to any multi-ethnic society.
Identify and Self-Identity: Three Current Bestsellers
Positivism and materialism attempt to exert an objective authority on the world. True spirituality insists upon the absence of an external authority and equates the spirit with personality and action.
The paper examines contemporary American culture through the reading and analysis of three current popular best sellers.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. A Northern writer creates a "gorgeous and haunting blend of travel book and murder mystery" that parades old passions through New South Savannah, Georgia.
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins deals with America's most sensitive issues in a lyrically defiant and upbeat book mixing the New York art world, the lost god of Palestine with politics, marriage, religion, money and lust.
Hotel America by Lewis Lapham (editor of Harper's Magazine, New York). This very popular author writes a masterpiece of insight with a combination of urbane prose, lethal wit, stimulating ideas and amusing anecdotes to capture the essence of America in the literature of social observation.
Danny Teal received his Doctorate of Integral Philosophy in 1997 from the Rockfeller endowed university, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco. Danny also has a Master of Fine Arts degree in the Theatrical Arts -- Acting and Directing-- and recently starred in the blockbuster movie "Metro" with Eddy Murphy. Danny lives in St. Petersburg and teaches at St. Petersburg State University He is an expert in determining the exponents in thought formation that determine logically motivational behavior in humans. In the business world Danny is known as a "Spin Doctor", which is someone who creates and develops corporate image projects for advertising, marketing and public relations programs. Some of his top clients have included Chevron Oil, IBM, the White House and President Ronald Reagan.
Olga Vessart and Nina Popova
Life and Issues in the USA: an Approach to Country Study
The talk deals with the main principles behind the book prepared by the presenters - due to be published in 1999. As a starting point we took the idea that one of the chief problems in the teaching and learning of a language is to sustain the learner's motivation. The most effective means of achieving this goal is to arouse the students’ interest in the material itself by selecting subject matter that appeals to them.
Considering that nowadays learners have opportunities to visit the countries they study, to stay there and communicate with native speakers, this material is intended to help them prepare for this communication.
We aimed at providing as much knowledge about the USA as the average American has and therefore made our selection of topics as comprehensive as possible. We have a fairly broad section on American history, which enhances an understanding of contemporary life in the US, including country's social and economic structure, its government and culture.
This spring's beginning has been marked by a growing activity of St. Petersburg teachers in Special Interest Groups, which resulted in 130 teachers attending nine SIG seminars.
Two events took place at the Herzen University. The Pronunciation SIG met to listen to Mark M. Segal`s vivid presentation on "American and British English. Differences in Pronunciation", and the Area Studies SIG members had a unique opportunity to listen to our guest speaker, Professor David McFadden of Fairfield University, Connecticut, on the history of Russo-American relations.
Regular seminars for members of the Young Learners SIG have been run by E.A.Vorontzova at school 280 once a month, with the assistance of the International Book Company.( Ads about these were posted at the British Council.) Four seminars have taken place so far : Vocabulary and Grammar Games (February), "Big Red Bus" - the most popular course book for teaching kids (March), Reading Skills Formation in Young Learners Classroom (April). A coming event here is How to Teach Conversation to Young Learners (20 May).
Two seminars on Communicative approach were organised by G.V Avdiyeva from the International Book Company within the framework of the Teacher Development/Training SIG. A number of problems discussed there, including those of teacher-student interaction and classroom management, aroused considerable interest.
The Learner's Independence SIG co-ordinated by O.S. Strelkova, OUP, met at No 3 Dumskaya Street to discuss their future work. Being the youngest, this SIG has only six members, each of whom, however, has his/her own ideas and materials for the next LI SIG events. They have made interesting plans for autumn and invite other teachers to join them.
SPELTA organised a four-session seminar in Translation lead by N.P.Fyodorova in St.Petersburg University. All twenty participants described that very instructive though short course as extremely valuable experience.
A four-day video-aided seminar on Business English was organised by L.A.Devel and Business English SIG at the Mayakovsky Library and the Acmeological Academy in March-April. Some theoretical issues were considered and current problems discussed. Twenty participant in total took part in it. Materials for the seminar were provided by Oxford University Press, RELOD Longman-Addison Wesley and Heinemann. Three video-films were shown and five Golden Series textbooks for different levels were presented.
One of the specials was a self-study Business English CD program. The organisers of the seminar and its participants thank the Mayakovsky Library, RELOD, and especially Elen Basserova, for their contribution and assistance.
BESIG has determined its own theme for the November 1998conference: Business English in the Business World.
Speech Communication and Argumentation Studies is a unique
SIG of SPELTA , that is not on the list of IATEFFL SIGs. It was organised
by L.P.Chakhoyan and T.P.Tretyakova and now is co-ordinated by T.Ivanova.
The goals of the SIG are :
1) To provide linguistic background to what is Speech Communication and why it is important to make it the major focus of teaching and learning
2) To show the practical outcome of Argumentation Studies and its most effective use.
3) To provide a forum for those who are interested in speech communication as an integrated activity
4) To discuss the kinds of communication used in teaching and learning
5) To study the debate technique and its application to methodology
This SIG renewed its activities last autumn with a very successful organisation or International Debate Tournament. On April 27, 1998 the SIG organised a seminar on the Types of Communication in the Classroom held at the University of Technology and Design. Dr.Ivanova gave a brief theoretical outline of Classroom Communication and then Dr.L.Rebikova shared her practical experience and her ideas on ways of solution of problems faced while giving communicative tasks. The seminar participants (seven members) decided to work on a joint bank of ideas and materials for communicative teaching.
Our nearest forthcoming meeting is to be June 10, at 16-30, venue will be specified later.
Lecture in the Anichkov Lyceum
When Dr. Nina Yakovlevna Dyakonova, Professor of the Herzen Pedagogical University, delivered her lecture on the journals of Lord Byron and Lermontov's Pechorin, her audience was large and diverse - from the Anichkov Lyceum students to English teachers and university lecturers. Even a few foreign students and teachers were there. The lecture was arranged by the Literature SIG of the SPELTA and its Co-ordinator, Dr.Galina Yakovlevat, in co-operation with the Lyceum. There is no need to explain why the lecture attracted so many. The speaker is one of the leading Russian scholars of today in the field of English literature, very well known both for her erudition and lively manner of presentation. Also, the subject was of considerable interest to young students and experienced teachers alike. It is common knowledge that Lermontov's inspiration was often spurred by Byron and his work, but both were poets of great stature and originality. What was the extent of Byron's influence? By juxtaposing the two journals, the speaker convincingly demonstrated their affinity, showing that Lermontov was not only familiar with Byron's journal (there is documentary evidence to this effect), but was greatly influenced by his English counterpart. Perhaps, it was this source that suggested to him that the Russian and Western European frames of mind were not dissimilar.
The lecture was greatly appreciated and followed by a cordial vote
of thanks. The same occasion was used for the presentation of the latest
issue of the Anichkov Vestnik, a publication carrying what the Lyceum's
students have written on British, American and French authors (this
often sums up their study projects), as well as articles by Prof. N.Ya.
Dyakonova, G. V. Yakovleva, and S.Gurevich.
Russian–American Relations and American Studies for Teachers of English
Professor David McFadden Associate Professor of History at Fairfield University in Connecticut (USA), Fulbright Scholar and visiting Professor of American Studies and American History at Herzen University during 1998, was the guest speaker at a SPELTA group meeting on April 15 at Herzen. Professor McFadden gave an overview of American –Russian Relations since the 18th century, concentrating on the cultural, educational, and personal relations between Americans and Russians during the entire history of the two peoples’ interaction. In his presentation, Professor McFadden emphasized that several fundamental features of the relationship were consistent over time and in fact provided the most stable basis for positive development for the future: (1) commerce (a consistent connecting link particularly between St. Petersburg and the New England and Middle Atlantic States of the United States); (2) cultural and literary ties (the fact that writers, artists, and intellectuals from both societies had been interested in each others’ work and had maintained strong relations and exchanges since the time of Benjamin Franklin and Lomonosov, but developing in a number of artistic, educational, and scientific directions in the latter half of the nineteenth century; and (3) the enduring curiosity and interest in each other’s countries by the educated populations. The latter phenomenon can be seen, Professor McFadden argued, in the observation by outside observer French aristocrat Alexis de Toqueville in the middle of the 19th century, that the two countries occupied unique positions between east and west and in their very different ways embraced the Atlantic and the Pacific communities of nations. The “special and unique character” of both Russians and Americans is well known, and provides an attraction for the two cultures, which has survived ideological and political conflict in both the 19th and the 20th centuries.
Following this overview of culture and history, Professor McFadden devoted the last part of his lecture to the importance of American Studies, particularly culture, literature, and history, as a way of teaching about the United States in English language courses, utilizing his experience both in the United States and in St. Petersburg to provide concrete example and illustration. This part of the evening sparked a lively exchange of views and a series of increasingly concrete questions about all aspects of American life, language, culture, history, and current affairs to which Professor McFadden gave both personal and professional response.
Round Table at the American Cultural Center
American Cultural Center, USIS, together with SPELTA organized American Studies Round Table discussion, which took palace on 22 April 1998 in the conference-hall of the Center , 5 Millionnaya ul. The invitation had been issued to thirty people professionally connected with American studies, secondary school teachers, university lecturers, and American Fulbright scholars. The Round Table in a way was a rehearsal for the SPELTA Conference and was aimed at specifying the range and character of topics for discussion. Prof. David McFadden in an introductory talk described three levels in any country (area) study: 1) informative, the study of a language, a passive level; 2) debate, interaction, discussion; 3)deeper knowledge, empathy, immersion. To reach any of the levels several forms of activities can be developed, such as topical evenings, parties, cross-cultural discussions, etc. Other speakers stressed the importance of varying aspects and approaches to American studies, placing an emphasis on national, ethnic and personal identity, political and historical issues, etc.
A logical conclusion to the discussion is an idea of starting an American Club with the headquarters in the American Cultural Center where people interested in American culture, history, language, life and institutions, etc. can come together and meet eminent speakers, professionals in various spheres, discuss films or theater performances of touring companies, to put it in two words - study America. This proposal will be forwarded at the SPELTA's annual spring conference and may get its approval and become a reality.
The Master of English Competition
The first competition in the English language proficiency organised under the auspices of SPELTA by Eastern Cultures High School (No 664) took place on April 15-16 at 57/3 Marshala Blukhera av. The participants, 93 students of 8th -10th grades were delegated by St. Petersburg schools with intensive study of English - -two representatives from each school. The advisory list of schools was suggested by the secondary school section of the SPELTA Council. SPELTA was also responsible for test development and judging the competition itself.
The format of the competition was designed and commissioned by the organisers and answered the following requirements: grammar (the structure of English), reading and listening tests were to be multiple choice answers and the speaking test was conducted in the form of an interview with two juries. The complexity level of the First Cambridge Certificate was targeted, though the reduction of test types to the multiple choice only has essentially facilitated the tasks for the students. The topics of the interview were centred around American studies - identity, ethnicity, language, values, etc., which were to be discussed in a cross-cultural aspect. The juries were teachers, lecturers and post-graduate students of St. Petersburg State University headed by SPELTA president, Dr. Elvira Myachinskaya. Participating school teachers were present all through the competition, could observe the procedures and helped with the processing of the answer sheets, which were anonymous and bore only a student's coded number.
Each contestant entered all four parts of the competition, with the ultimate total score of 397 points, the top three winners having scored 379, 375 and 372 points (the names to be announced later, at the award-giving ceremony). Special prizes for language proficiency, natural phonetics, mature reasoning, fluency, good interactive communication and sense of humour are to be given to 15 students. The three top students will be awarded medals and are to go on a tour to Turkey. The awards are to be supplied by the organisers Eastern Cultures High School- who deserve a sincere praise for the initiative and competence in running the competition. Let us hope that the prefix First that stands before the title of the competition will eventually turn to Second and roll on and on.
The general impression of the students is very favourable. Of course, the scoring differed dramatically, spreading between 113 and 379, but the majority of results was above 60%: 39 contestants scored above 200 and 26 participants got over 300 points. The school-children seemed confident and self-assured, had no problems understanding the requirements and moved easily from part to part (45 minutes each). The interviews show that more and more children acquire a natural sound as well as vocabulary and are prepared to communicate and discuss things rather than produce utterances with various degrees of correctness. Perhaps, after all, we are becoming better teachers!
THIS spring was extremely rich in various interesting events where SPELTA participated. The celebration of 300th anniversary of Peter the Great's Embassy to Britain is the main event of the whole year. Our May Conference is included into the programme of the celebration. In April SPELTA members attended an extremely interesting conference on Russian-British links, organised by the St. Petersburg Department of Foreign Languages, Russian Academy of sciences. The participants had a pleasure of listening to a variety of talks on historical, literature and cultural issues presented by British and Russian speakers.
In April St. Petersburg ELT professionals participated in meetings with famous ELT authors, organised by publishers and the British Council.
SPELTA also participated in organising OUP Day under the title "Teachers, students and textbooks"
OUP Day "Teachers, Students, Textbooks"
On April, the 25 the Faculty of Management of St. Petersburg University was a host of a one day conference , organised by OUP with participation of SPELTA. For the kind consent of the Faculty heads to provide the rooms and equipment OUP gave a really generous gift of dictionaries, including the computer version of Word Power and many other books. In the Opening Plenary the audience was greeted by Irina Pavlovskaya, Honorary President and Tatiana Ivanova, SPELTA vice-president. A number of SPELTA members attended. Three presentations were given by SPELTA members. Irina Pavlovskaya spoke on Receptive and Productive Skills in Oral Communication, Irina Panasyuk's presentation was entitled: "New Headway Intermediate: What's New" and Tatiana Ivanova described Oxford University Press books on Business English currently used at the Faculty of Management.
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) held its 32nd Annual International Convention and Exposition at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, Washington, USA form March 17 to March 21, 1998 . The theme of this year's convention was "TESOL'98: Connecting Our Global Community" . Indeed, English teachers from over 100 countries came to Seattle to review the latest methods and anticipate future trends in the fields of teaching and teacher training. The program included paper presentations, practical demonstrations and workshops, numerous colloquia, breakfast seminars with experts in the field and educational visits to local schools and organizations. SPELTA, as a TESOL affiliate of good standing, got a TESOL Travel Grant to be able to send the official delegate, SPELTA's President, Dr. Elvira Myachinskaya to the convention, in particular to attend Affiliate Leaders' Workshop and the Affiliate Council Meeting. The attendance of these two functions made it almost impossible to find time for other regular conference activities, but the Workshop has given valuable information and has been quite fruitful. (on some aspects of it, see below). The outcome of the Affiliate Council meeting, besides chartered electoral proceedings, was a formulated intention of European Affiliates to form a separate structure. Representatives of about twenty European countries have come to an agreement to exchange information, participate in each other's publications, organize joint events, share visiting speakers, etc. without applying to the central TESOL office. This may lead to establishing firmer European links and, perhaps, to starting a Pan-European Conference. True, all sorts of agreements, however important or attractive they may seem, are viable only when real people want to and do real things together. As it is , this is only good will.
The best attraction of the Convention was its exhibit hall, an enormous space covered with a thousand sections belonging to more than 150 American, European and Asiatic publishing companies and agencies. It featured up-to-date books, teaching materials, and audio-visual and computer-assisted learning aids. Among the highlights of this years convention was Electronic Village, the technology showcase hosted by CALL (computer assisted language learning) interest section. There one could consult CALL experts, try out software and hardware, explore Internet applications for language teaching, attend presentations. Participants of SPELTA's spring conference will have a chance to look through some information packages and get demonstration discs and programs in the Raffle.
To sum up, participation in TESOL conventions is invaluable
experience, opening new horizons for an individual and through
him or her for other members of the teaching community
too. Hearing, listening, touching and reading will eventually bring
us to using. SPELTA is grateful to TESOL and USIS for financial
as well as moral support and hopes to find similar understanding
of our needs and objectives in future.
"Russian accent is charming"
Michael Swan and Catherine Walter, the two world famous ELT authors and lecturers were in St. Petersburg on the invitation of Cambridge University Press and the British Council and lead three sessions, on 20-21 April, 1998, dedicated to their book The New Cambridge English Course.
The first session of 20 April was on communicative grammar teaching and was held in the Seminar room of Mayakovsky Library. The second one, in the late afternoon, started with a panel talk "Teaching speaking and listening with New Cambridge English Course", was followed by a reception given in honor of the renouned couple by the organizers in the British Council Resource Center and was concluded by a round table discussion with the Course users from secondary schools and universities of St. Petersburg, where the Course authors received feedback on their books and heard various suggestions and comments from the teachers.
On Tuesday the 21st there was a session devoted to teaching vocabulary with NCEC. Regretfully, a lot more people would have been happy to attend, but could not do so because of their own teaching classes.
At the end of the first, very busy day, Michael
Swan and Catherine Walter greed to give an exclusive interview for SPELTA
Newsletter readers. The following is a transcript from tape written
by Tatiana Ivanova, SPELTA Vice-President, who was also the interviewer.
Q: Your books and this
course in particular have started a new epoch in language teaching
methodology: they have been revolutionary, they have made people realize
the undeniable advantages of communicative approach; there is an army of
your followers today. Obviously, this approach is at its peak at the moment.
What do you think is to be the next stage?
M.Swan: It is a very difficult question, really. When something is at its peak I am a bit concerned, since I realize nothing can stay long. Are we going to pay the same attention to fluency, accuracy, all the other things we have been talking about today? What is next, your guess is as good as ours, I think. I am sure there won't be very much progress in language teaching until we know more about what goes on in people's heads when they learn languages. We don't know very much about that yet, and perhaps we need a breakthrough in psycholinguistics before we get a serious breakthrough in language teaching methodology or
Catherine Walter (continues): several breakthroughs in several areas of psycholinguistics. I think psycholinguistics is liable more and more to inform.
M.Swan: But, actually, although in a sense our books have seemed like a big step forward for many people but there isn't a lot in them that wasn't already around in one way or another. What we tried to do is to put together into the main course material ideas we had developed ourselves or had met around the world which already existed but often in supplementary material in one form or another or in teacher's practice. What happened yet, we integrated it sensibly and restructured in a sound way into course materials.
Q: As far as I know, Level 4 is the last one until now. Are you going to continue, to publish Level five one day?
M.Swan: In France when somebody comes up to you in the street with a charity collection box the correct answer is "I have already given. We gave at the office". We have done what we feel able and willing to do, and we both are moving other directions. We certainly wouldn't want to write another level of the course. We would leave it to somebody else.
Q: When you mention the development of other areas of psycholinguistics, like neurology or psychic research, do you feel prepared to take all that and integrate it into something quite new?
C.Walter: I am at the moment doing research in psycholinguistics on certain aspects of how the memory is used in reading. I am looking at the same people reading in their first language and reading in their second language. I am looking at quite a technical level of memory functioning, and seeing if I can find out some things that will help, that will have application in second language learning. That's the sort of things I was talking about.
Q: Has anything of your research been published yet?
C.Walter: Not yet, but watch this space.
M.Swan: And as far as teaching materials are concerned we have recently published what must be something like our twenty fifth book, How English Works and enough is enough.
Q: Is it the name of a new book?
(Everybody is laughing)
M.Swan: That will be a possibility for our twenty sixth book!!!
Q: What do you think is the role of professional associations of teachers? Can they be of help? Are they needed?
M.Swan: I got a great deal of my training from attending meetings of different professional associations. For me as a consumer, yes, they have been enormously valuable and gave me a lot.
C.Walter: I think, they are extremely valuable not only for the links they can forge, in the communications that they can facilitate among teachers in the same area, but also because of the links they can establish between teachers in one area and teachers in another area, teachers in one country and teachers in another country. Professional associations are enormously useful to teachers all over the world, I have seen so many ways in which they help people out, and often unexpected ways. The more links you make, the more unexpected benefits you derive.
Q: Are you both IATEFL members ?
M.Swan, C.Walter: Yes we are.
Q: How do the Russians speaking English sound to you? What is the most peculiar thing?
M.Swan: No, nothing sounds peculiar. How you respond to an accent is a very personal thing, I think. Individuals like some accents and don't like others. We both like the sound of Russian accent. The thing that strikes one most is the vowel glides, I suppose.
Q: Yes, we are weak with vowels. It's floppy speaking.
C.Walter: No, it's not floppy. It's charming. The thing is that some accents strike the wrong cord with English speakers because some accents sound like something that carries meaning in English, for example some accents have a certain intonation pattern, which sounds abrupt in English and when people perfectly innocently use their intonation and stress pattern in English they sound to a native English speaking person like if being arrogant and bossy, this doesn't happen with any aspect of Russian accent.
M.Swan: As we were saying earlier this day, we both like the sound of the Russian accent
Q: Have you heard anyone today who speaks without an accent?
C.Walter: Nobody in the world speaks without an accent at all. I was on the train the other day and one man started to talk to me and said he was surprised that I haven't lost my accent since I have been living in Britain for seventeen years. And he was speaking as if there was English with an accent and English without an accent. But it doesn't exist. Everybody has an accent. Michael has an accent. I have an accent, you have an accent.
M. Swan: But you probably meant: have we met anybody here who sounds like a native speaker?
Q: Yes. A Russian that sounds like a native speaker.
M.Swan: In the one day that I have been here - no.
C.Walter: But I have met Russians who did speak as if they were native speakers, surprisingly.
M.Swan: Yet, it is very unusual...
C.Walter: It's unusual. The thing is I think you must make a distinction when you are learning a language...Someone was talking to me about pronunciation only today. I think it is very important if you are a language teacher. They were asking me about teaching pronunciation to their students and what can they do to help their students have the better accents especially with "th" sound. I said: Well, let us look at your students. What are their aims of learning English? Are they planning to be spies? She said no. And I said well, then they don't need a perfect accent.
I think you have to distinguish between model and target in pronunciation. Obviously when you give them a good English language textbook and you play the tapes you are giving them as a model good British English or good American English depending on which textbook you are using. But that's a model, that's not a target.
Your target for your students is to speak like an educated Russian speaker of English and that's not only good enough that's perfect.
M.Swan: That's what they are. Your accent says we are from where we come from. And there's something rather strange about a foreigner, whose accent says, "I am from Manchester" or "I went to an English public school," or "I am from Boston", because that is not true. Whereas somebody whose accent says, "I speak English well and I am from Hamburg" or "I am from St. Petersburg or Madrid" is using English honestly and realistically and appropriately.
Q: Aren't you afraid that the tendency of using various multinational accents in English books may lead to confusion? I mean learners would not know what to imitate. Of course there must be a way to listen to various accents, but students tend to imitate what they hear, they might be confused and imitate the wrong accent.
C.Walter: Well, I can not speak for other books, I can only speak for our book. In our book the model is British English and we make a very clear distinction between exercises that are for receptive use and exercises that are for imitation, for productive use. All of the exercises that are there to help teach students to speak are in Standard British English.
M.Swan: And certainly with our courses I would be surprised if people got confused because I think it's very clear what they are supposed to imitate and what they are only supposed to understand.
I can add a short anecdote. When I was running a language school in Oxford we needed a new beginners teacher and we got an application from a Canadian. She was terribly good, she had wonderful credentials, exactly the right kind of experience, obviously a brilliant teacher, but we thought: "My God, how can she teach our students! They come to Oxford to learn British English - how can we give them a teacher with a Canadian accent?" Then we decided that we would try and experiment and see whether her students will speak with a Canadian accent after six weeks. Actually, after six weeks the Greeks spoke with a Greek accent, the Germans with the German accent, the Spanish students spoke with a Spanish accent just as before. I can exaggerate, but accents are not a problem.
Q: What are your impressions of St. Petersburg teachers?
M.Swan: It is hard to sum up the long day's impressions. Enormously enthusiastic, interested, dynamic, constructive, very, very concerned with the quality of their work and anxious to improve the quality of their work. It is lovely to work with an audience which starts so positive. We have traveled to a lot of countries around the world. In some places everybody sits there expecting to have a good time and you really have to work to make them hate you, in other countries they tend to sit there hating you at the beginning and you have to work to make them love you.
C.Walter (adds):... in some countries you cannot tell... It is nice when people react quickly, there is a lot of spontaneity and a lot of thoughtfulness too. That last session (feedback discussion) was enormously useful to us, and everything else we did during the day.
Q: What would you recommend to our organization for our professional development?
M.Swan: I think, your association is better able to judge than we are, in what directions it would be most useful for it to develop, but whatever those directions are, your association goes down that way with our very best wishes and hopes for the future.
Q: Thank you very much indeed. And all the best for the rest of your stay.
Tonya Trappe: "Professional associations provide teachers with a lot of back-up..."
Our next very special April guest in St. Petersburg was Tonya Trappe who had been invited by Longman and the British Council. Those of us who teach Business English had a great pleasure to attend her two sessions: (1) Business Reading: the Forgotten Skill and (2) Using "Insights into Business".
Tonya Trappe is one of the authors of the business course book, "Insights into Business" (Longman). Before completing her TEFL diploma, she obtained a degree in economics from the Trinity College in Dublin. She has been teaching in France for 15 years. She is currently teaching and developing materials for the Leonardo da Vinci University in Paris and is working together with the other two authors of "Insights" Michael Lannon and Graham Tullis.
After the two sessions held in the Seminar-room of Mayakovsky Library Tonya Trappe agreed for an exclusive interview for our readers taken by Tatiana Ivanova.
Q: Thank you for giving
your consent to answer some questions. I represent SPELTA, a professional
association of teachers and my first question is: Are you a member of any
Trappe: Well, yes, I am a member of the BE SIG association.
Q: What is the role of professional associations?
Trappe: I think, the role is to provide teachers with a lot of back-up that we don't always get from other sources. We are just teachers, we are depending on our pedagogical advisors, to help us to plan programs and make them interesting and motivating. From the association you should get much more ideas and that's very helpful. I think, it provides us with a place to meet our teaching colleagues and it's a real way to exchange our experiences and we learn from our colleagues. We feel much more confident ourselves when we realise they have the same problems as us. It is very, very important. Otherwise we are isolated. It is a very lonely job. We can be very isolated as teachers, only working with our students, of course. But if we don't have the same time-table, in our university we don't meet our colleagues every day.
Q: The majority of our association are women as you might guess.
Trappe: Yes, it is everywhere with language teachers.
Q: And women are very curious about backgrounds and personality. Please, tell us a few words about yourself.
Trappe: I am living in Paris now, because I am married to a Frenchman, that's probably the reason for my stay in Paris. I've also worked in North Africa, in Algeria, as a teacher when I was a single young woman. I have two children, two small children, the eldest is six and the youngest is three. That's why I always like to say in my seminars: "Now, look, I know what your life-style is like, because, it's true, we're teachers at the moment, we're often in the universities, in companies as well, in private institutions as well, bringing up children... we do understand".
Q: Are your co-authors from France?
Trappe: American and English, Michael is American, Graham is English and we are all three teaching in France, we are a teaching team.
Q: What do you think are the main problems of teaching business English at a modern level?
Trappe: The problems facing the business English teacher today...The first one is that we have to realise that we are the experts, we are not business experts necessarily, but we are still language experts, we are still important. And what we have to do is we have to read regularly the business press, we have to take any interest in business, even if we are not at the start interested, we have to develop a genuine interest in business and find the parts in business activities that genuinely interest you and concentrate on that. And not be afraid, I think we do lack confidence, because we are not business people. But I don't think that's important because, even if we go to teach business people in companies we should never feel inferior. That person needs us more than we need them. Their whole future, professional future depends very often on what we can give them if we can improve the level of English, they need to get promoted. I think we should realise that we are important and we don't have to feel inferior or lack of confidence, because we are not business people, we are a very important element in that link between business people and the rest of the world.
Q: That sounds very optimistic, I should say. In what way in your opinion is business English different from general English?
Trappe: Obviously it's a whole different set of concepts and vocabulary and it's evolving and changing a lot more. If you are teaching general English, you can teach, I don't know, any subject that interests you, if you are teaching business English you have to constantly update your information and even language is evolving, what you call buzz-words they have to be fairly understandable. With general English you can use the same materials for years and years and when it works, it works, but with business English you have to change the materials every single year. You have to have the basic course and then, I think, you have to supplement that course because your can't design the course that would be forever good you have to supplement that with texts that have just come out. When you take them interested students you can get maximum.
Q: Are the tapes for your book authentic or a combination of authentic and non-authentic materials?
Trappe: Every single main listening exercise is with an authentic speaker, for some of the lead-in, or short listening exercises we've used actors. Because it is so hard to disturb a professional business person and say: "Could you talk for two minutes?". For a short listening exercise it would be very embarrassing to ask them to give up their very precious time. But every single long listening or main listening exercise is with professional people from business world.
Q: You mentioned earlier talking to the seminar participants that you sometimes lose control over your students. Do they often use their own language and what do you do then?
Trappe: First of all let us decide when they use their native language is it a very negative or a very positive thing, OK. Sometimes they use French (their native language) to try and understand what the task is and if it happens to understand the concept, I am not too strict on only using English. I think I let it happen sometimes. What I also do is I pretend I do not hear it, because I can't prevent them, but that is not what I call losing control. Not if they do the task even using French. I lose control when they stop doing the task and start socialising about some program on TV.
Q: So, you think it is still useful for the students to do the task even if they are doing it in their native language?
Trappe: I think yes, they do think properly, their native language is not dramatic if then they do the activity in English. It also depends on the level of the class you are teaching. If the students have a very good level of English, and you know they have, they are just being lazy. But some weaker students, I think,.. they need their own language to prepare for the activity.
Q: Do you use video as a part of your program? There is no video com-ponent in "Insights into business".
Trappe: Yes, I do it a lot.
Q: Do you find it effective?
Trappe: Yes, I do, and I find it effective not necessarily because it is, first of all, but only because the students like it and motivation is the key element for this age group. If they want get a lot they do get a lot from it. But I think that if they liked listening to audio-cassettes as much, they would get more out of it, would pay less attention to video. I think listening gives more for pro-nunciation and comprehension, ob-viously, but they do love video and it is difficult to compete with it.
Q: However sometimes students only think about video as about pleasure and don't find it very serious...
Trappe: Yes, of course. Well, the problem with video is that it requires hard preparation. You can't do video without your video work sheets. And you cannot even plan video work sheets without listening to, watching that is, the piece for twenty or twenty five times, and by the time you have done your worksheet you get sick and you cannot bear watching it again. These are time-consuming things to prepare. But if you don't do some, and some other teachers do it, the students say "Aha! they are watching video! ". So we have to do video these days. Have you tried "Business challenges"?
Q: No, not yet. I use Leo Jones "International Business English"
Trappe: Some of the units are excellent. Some of it, not all of it.
Q: What would you wish to our readers?
Trappe: Good luck with the new generation! The new generation of business students are very dynamic, are very ambitious, and we have to run to keep up with them, and they are more and more demanding. We used to think that teachers knew everything or students at least believed we did. Nowadays we have to prove our credentials, because they have high ambitions and as business language teachers we have to be ready to answer that challenge.